KFWE 2023: NY & Tel Aviv

Let me start by with the obligatory apologies for the lateness of this post. My work schedule unfortunately has not let up – and is forecasted to continue this way until at least November – so I am constantly playing catch up. This year, due to work, I was unable to do the full KFWE circuit. I did get a chance to hit KFWE in NY – but decided against writing it up as there were very few of Royal’s European wines that I hadn’t already tasted and written up. Also, for whatever reason, Royal decided to omit the press section of that event. This made it impossible to really taste through anything in a serious way when there are mob scenes all over the place and people wearing obscene amounts of perfume and cologne. On the other hand, as a social event, it was great – as all of the KFWE’s are hanging out with friends and casually drinking some of Royal’s excellent offering. Also, some of the food was quite good in the main hall, which really added to the fun atmosphere. (Whereas in the VIP section, the food was managed REALLY poorly – I’m not sure what went on there. The wines were excellent though! Special kudos to the 2020 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, which is excellent this year, and to the 2019 Carmel Tel Macphea Late Harvest Gewürztraminer. I had missed it on release, and it was nice to taste it – even so far from home.

Having skipped KFWE-LA, the next KFWE up was Tel Aviv. Zur, Royal’s distributor in Israel is responsible for this event. As they distribute only a small subset of the Israeli wines that Royal distributes in the US, the TA event is naturally smaller – and more focused on the non-Israeli wines. On top of that, Zur DID have a press event prior to the main show, and this allowed for a much deeper dive on a couple of the new wines and, quite frankly, was really nice. It was a guided tasting of a selection of one wine per winery with representatives from each winery presenting their respective wines, making this a really nice event indeed. I will say that some of the wine selections were puzzling – for instance Ella Valley, which is now being distributed by Zur, chose to pour Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. I don’t have anything nice to say about that wine. I guess the color was OK. Herzog chose to pour their 2020 Baron Herzog Chardonnay – an underwhelming choice when they have so many excellent wines to choose from. Chateau Roubine chose to pour their Hippy Rose rather than pretty much any other wine they make, which would have been better. But rather than focus on those choices, let’s talk about the wines that impressed.

2018 Terra di Seta, Chianti Classico, Riserva  – This wine showed slightly better than my last tasting in November, though the notes are essentially he same and can be found here.  93

2018 Elvi, Herenza, Crianza, Rioja – I am not sure why, but it doesn’t look like I’ve posted notes on this vintage before, so here you go. On the nose, you get some nice, toasted herb with smoked meat, mushrooms, and dirt with some red fruit – it is a great combo. In the mouth, the smoke hits you first, but it’s not over the top – with more of the nose following, herbs, mushrooms, ripe red raspberry. The oak makes itself known but again, everything here is balanced. There is some nice acidity and still firm tannin. The finish is actually a bit fruitier than I remembered it – but still balanced with more red fruit, herbs, and mushrooms, all balanced out by that really nice acidity that runs through it..  Really nice stuff! 92

2020 Château Fourcas Dupree, Listrac Medoc – another very nice wine just written about in November  –  my notes are here: 91.5

Finally, we came to the wines that were of most interest to me – excellent wines from new (at least from a kosher standpoint) producers:

2021 Château Dauzac, Margaux – Barrel Sample –OK this is a cheat, as it’s not the finished wine, but what I tasted, was impressive – especially for the 2021 vintage, which as you know has been extremely underwhelming in my opinion. The wine is made of 2/3 Cabernet Sauvignon and 1/3 Merlot. On the nose, you have nice ripe tart red fruit with floral notes. In the mouth, you have a medium-bodied very elegant wine with red currant, raspberry, violets, black cherries, and some licorice. With air, you do get some more earth and a bit of lead. You can tell that it just needs some time The tannin is silky and smooth. The finish is long with more red fruit, earth, and roasted coffee bean. As this is a barrel sample, I’m not going to score it, but I have high hopes for this and its little brother the Aurore de Dauzac.

2021 Domaine Raymond Usseglio & Fils, Châteauneuf-du-Pape – As much as I like the 2019 and 2020 HUrlivent, these new CdP’s are EXCELLENT. They are everything you want from a CdP from a profile perspective – and they are ELEGANT, which is hard to accomplish. This wine is 80% Grenache with the balance made up of Syrah. Mourvèdre, Cinsaut, and Counoise. The nose is classic Rhone with rich black and red fruit, baking spice, and black pepper. In the mouth, you get everything the nose promises and more with blackberry, raspberry, baking spice, and some smoke. What you also get is balance. The fruit is clear and ripe – but not over the top. Because the fruit is controlled, acidity doesn’t need to be over the top either, though it is ample. Likewise with the tannin, which I would say is medium plus. This is just a gorgeous bottle. It’s really nice to see a true top-shelf CdP join the Royal ranks (and its big brother, the Old Vines, is no slouch either). Kudos to Menachem for putting these togther! 92.5

As far the regular show goes – it’s really hard to beat the Israeli location at the port; it’s just beautiful. The food is a bit more low key than your standard KFWE’s but — it’s a different kind of vibe than other KFWE’s – laid back relaxed on the water. If they upped the food a little, it would simply be unbeatable – as it is also very focused mostly on Royal’s European production.  As far as the wines go, most of those I have tasted before — and in Israel they are serving some really old vintages – so not a lot to write about there, but there were a few other new wines that we worth taking note of. As mentioned above, Dauzac has the Aurore de Dauzac, and Usseglio has the even nicer Vielles Vignes (old Vines) version of their CdP, which is 90% Grenache, with the rest of the blend being the same varietals as the other wine. Other wines that stood out were the 2021 Covenant Lavan Chardonnay and the Covenant 2021 Napa CS (yup, in this case Israel is ahead of the US as far as KFWE) – Covenant has been on a nice streak lately! Lastly there was the 2022 J. de Villebois Sancerre – which I felt was more in line with what I would expect from a Sancerre than last year’s Silex — which although very nice, didn’t really work 100% stylistically. The 2022 is cheaper and EXCELLENT.

That’s a wrap for now. I hope to be catching up on some wine writing, so stay tuned.

As always, my thanks to both Royal and Zur for hosting me at these events.

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